Anti-Breast Cancer Diet Overshadows a Bigger Culprit

“Tomatoes may reduce breast cancer risk.”  This headline went viral recently after research reported the positive effects of eating tomatoes in women with high risk of breast cancer.  Research from Harvard Medical School in 2012 found that having higher levels of carotenoids- nutrients in brightly colored fruits and veggies- lowered breast cancer risk.BreastMammography_Horizontal

Headlines like this can offer hope for the one in nine women affected with breast cancer, but is it overshadowing the links of being overweight and breast cancer risk? Dr. Jewell suggests that the beneficial effects of vegetables are not quite as strong as the negative affect of obesity in women.  “Eating a lot of tomatoes” will not undo the damage of being overweight.  Although people know that extra weight increases heart disease risk, there is less awareness of its link with post-menopausal breast cancer.”

BreastRecon_HorizontalEating a rainbow of colorful healthy veggies to reduce risk is helpful to a point, but we must caution women on focusing on a single compound found in food.  Cancer is a complicated process, and we need to arm women with a toolkit, or a broad range of compounds to help fight cancer at different stages.  Another benefit of vegetables is that they are low in kilojoules, which help keep weight down.  According to the World Cancer Research Fund, 38% of breast cancer can be attributed to two lifestyle factors: being overweight and alcohol.

The reason extra-fat increases breast cancer risk in older women is that after menopause the ovaries stop producing estrogen, this hormone continues to be produced in fatty tissues.  Research points out that if the level of estrogen is in excess of normal levels, it can raise breast cancer risk.  This is why exercise is recognized as important for preventing recurrence.  One theory is that chronically high levels of insulin, which can occur with being overweight, may be cancer promoting, and exercise helps reduce insulin.

Spring has arrived in Eugene and this is a great time to get out and walk and add a rainbow of colorful fruits and veggies to your diet!

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